THOUGHT OF THE OUTSIDE: Meillassoux’s indebtedness to Blanchot

Quentin Meillassoux has been applauded in some quarters for his bold struggle against correlationism and his appeal for adventurous sallies into what he calls « the Great Outdoors » (le « Grand Dehors »). It has not often been noted that Meillassoux, following in the footsteps of those he ostensibly critiques as « correlationists », is consciously or unconsciously paying hommage to the thought of Maurice Blanchot, much of which was devoted to a meditation on the Outside (le Dehors) and to a possible « thought of the Outside » (pensée du Dehors). In this expression we can see, once again, the power of the ambiguity of the genitive, which can be objective or subjective. Construed as an objective genitive, this is the expression of representation, with the outside figuring as object of thought. We are inside what Laruelle calls the principle of sufficient philosophy and the outside is a hallucinatory correlate of our linguistic and conceptual constructions. As a subjective genitive the expression « the thought of the Outside » refers to the the thinking that is thought by the Outside itself or under its « dictation » or its transposition into words. Thought in this sense is in non-reflective correlation with the Outside, or what Laruelle calls the Real, whereas in the first sense « reality » is in a reflective, or mirroring, correlation with thought.

Deleuze and Guattari, in reference to Blanchot, talk about a « thought in relation to the Outside » as essential to a non-philosophical understanding of philosophy in the 70s, ie well before Laruelle’s « break » with philosophy or « turn » to non-philosophy in 1981. Foucault’s work from the early 60s, again explicitly under the influence of Blanchot, was turned towards an Outside that he found in the literature of transgression, then in force-relations and the apparatuses of power (school, asylum, prison) and later in the plurality of processes of subjectivation.

Thus the attempt to put thought in relation to the Outside has been a major theme of the French philosophy of the last 60 years. Meillassoux’s aspiration to exit into the « Great Outdoors » is a derivative and diluted product of this long-standing tradition (continued today by Laruelle) that Meillassoux would have us see as « correlationist » in the narrow sense of the mirroring correlation that in fact these philosophers before him described and analysed in great detail, and sought to overcome by a great variety of methods. Far from constituting some revolutionary leap forward, Meillassoux’s AFTER FINITUDE is a regression behind the accomplishments of his great predecessors: Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault, Laruelle.

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6 commentaires pour THOUGHT OF THE OUTSIDE: Meillassoux’s indebtedness to Blanchot

  1. Jason dit :

    The connection to Blanchot is an interesting one, however, Blanchot shares with Levinas (and Nancy, to an extent) a concern with « originary language » that withholds itself from the world–it remains outside, inaccessible, e.g. anterior to an act of human appropriation. This comes from –in my opinion–Heidegger’s concerns in his middle to late period of writing: language cannot disclose what resides on the « hither side » of being and anterior to history and yet this concealment is the very condition for truth. So, I wonder if this business of the « outside » emerges out of the French reception of Heidegger…


  2. terenceblake dit :

    Blanchot was very much a reader of Heidegger and I think his theme of the outside came in part from a reflection on Heidegger’s « turn » with its dis-appropriation of the human and on his treatment of language. I can’t help thinking that Blanchot was also indirectly influenced by French epistemological reflection, perhaps even Bachelard, and amounts to using Heidegger to radicalise the critique of our ordinary intuitions as epistemological obstacles. My reading of Blanchot is very much influenced by Deleuze’s reading. It is in the Foucault lectures, that I attended, and in the book FOUCAULT that Deleuze extracts an epistemological thesis from Blanchot « speaking is not seeing », and praises Foucault for integrating the converse, « seeing is not speaking », affirming that Blanchot would not be capable of saying that. This was in the first stratum, that of organised forms. The Outside belongs, according to Deleuze, to the plane of non-formed forces and flows. And he posits « an outside more distant than any form of exteriority ». So I think that Deleuze manages to give a Nietzschean aura to Blanchot’s Outside. I think further that Deleuze’s denial of being influenced by Heidegger is thus slightly disingenuous, given his hommage to Blanchot, who can thus be seen as a source of French reception of Heidegger that was conceptually more radical than that of the official French Heideggerians.


  3. Bill Benzon dit :

    Interesting. From my odd point of view as someone who once worked within the Continental tradition, if only very early in my career, the rhetoric of correlationism has a very ‘provincializing’ feel. It declares that the Outside is somehow all of a sudden philosophically new and makes provincials of earlier all philosophers, the one’s who didn’t recognize it. But, it also declares the anti-correlationists as, in some sense, provincials themselves, precisely because they’re doing some for the First time when, in fact, they’re by no means The first.


  4. Hi Terence. Your posts are getting more stimulating. Here are my thoughts:

    Meillasoux’s ‘outside’ is at least different from the French phenomenological conception of alterity in which the outside is conceived as a human other, if not an other to which being responds after a certain awareness of its own alterity. In short, the phenomenological outside happens intrinsically. The confirmation of this outside is given by the facticity of death. But Meillasoux’s outside is such that an experience of which is impossible without mediation, or an objectification of a kind pursued in science. In the end, Meillasoux would recommend pursuing this objectification to its radical length, hence, his strong correlationist stance. Even so, this form of correlationism rests on the confidence that there is an absolute, the pure outside of thought. Still, it would be wrong to say that because we cannot confirm this absolute in the absolute temporal sense, such as the chaos and entropy discovered by science, this absolute does not exist or will not eventalize.

    Although Heidegger was not able to radicalize his conception of death to a level that is worthy of scientific reception, I think what secretly drives Meillasoux’s scientific confidence in the absolute (that Kant tried to bury) is Heideggerian in influence (though he elects Heidegger as a philosophical enemy, much like the disposition of his mentor, Badiou). Nick Land, though not exactly Heideggerian, has words to offer regarding death and how death itself confirms that 1) there is an absolute, and 2) that despite the absolute temporality of chaos which can lead to extinction humanity is always already defying it.

    Building on Georges Bataille’s theory of general economy, Land exposes the immanence of death as the driving force of terrestrial life that is ironically dependent on the sun’s decomposition: “Life appears as a pause on the energy path; as a precarious stabilization and complication of solar decay. It is most basically comprehensible as the general solution to the problem of consumption. Such a solar- or general-economic perspective exhibits production as an illusion; the hypostatization of a digression in consumption. To produce is to partially manage the release of energy into its loss, and nothing more” (Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism [London and New York: Routledge], 1992, xviii.)

    But while sympathetic to Bataille, Land also argues that “It is only because our bodies are weak and die that it is impossible for there to be a perfect cage, or for the sun to be interminably locked in fascist health. To be protected by something more than zero is the final term of imprisonment” (139). Paradoxically, because we can die (which is the ultimate source of human hope, that which protects our existence from being “protected by something more than zero,” which means the possibility of living an eternal life) entropy cannot perfectly imprison us. Extinction is not-All; otherwise, if it is All, we must also be capable of living in eternity, an imagined logical necessity that is absolutely prohibited by the ultimate logic of absolute contingency, as Meillasoux argues in After Finitude.

    Along these lines, at least, Meillasoux has basis for his strong correlationist attitude, one that is in the final analysis rests on HOPE. But it is not hope celebrated by phenomenology that has not successfully resisted its theological underpinnings (the phenomenologies of Derrida, Marion, et al). And contrary to his own expectations, Meillasoux finds a silent ally in Heidegger.


  5. Ping : La crítica al ‘correlacionismo’: una vuelta más en torno a la Representación | Between the Ruins

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